Police probe sale of forged statue

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Oslo policed are investigating the sale of a forged version of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland’s popular  statue “Sinnataggen.” They fear more forgeries of Vigeland’s iconic image of a toddler’s temper tantrum are circulating in the art market.

Gustav Vigeland's statue of an angry little boy is popular with visitors to Oslo's Frogner Park, and among the most-photographed statues on display. PHOTO: Views and News

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Friday that a forgery of Sinnataggen was recently sold for as much as NOK 200,000 (USD 33,000) by a gallery in Oslo.

“We have received a complaint that someone has copied Sinnataggen,” inspector Rune Skjold, who’s leading the investigation, told NRK.no.

“From what we know, there can be several forgeries from the same mould out on the market,” Skjold added. “We think there can be six or eight versions in circulation.”

He’s calling for tips from the public, after the forged version of Sinnataggen wound up in police custody. Skjold said there’s never been any doubt that the statue was a copy of the original, and not something Vigeland himself created.

“This version is based on the original in the Frogner Park (in Oslo), but it’s not very similar,” Skjold told NRK. “It’s more or less a free-hand version, which leaves it with clear deficiencies. Among other things, it’s much shorter than the original.”

There are a few authentic versions of Sinnataggen in private ownership, in addition to the original in the Frogner Park and one in the park’s adjacent Vigeland Museum. Jarle Stømodden, leader of the museum, claimed his staff of Vigeland experts have “good control” over the various authentic versions of Sinnataggen and where they’re located. He was surprised to hear of the attempted swindle.

‘Rather strange’
“I think it’s rather strange that anyone would buy such a well-known work of art without checking with us first,” Størmodden told NRK, “especially when (the forgery) so poorly resembles Vigeland’s original work.” He pointed to several details in the posture of the angry little boy that differ from the original, “so we saw at once that this couldn’t have been formed after any of Vigeland’s versions of Sinnataggen,” he said.

Størmodden said that modern technology has made it easier to copy known works of art, and he fears the practice is becoming more rampant. “We saw some versions of Sinnataggen being sold on Ebay (the online marketing service) a while back,” he said. “I don’t know whether this is related to the forgery here in Oslo, but it shows the market is impossible to control.”

The original Sinnataggen in the Frogner Park is considered a national treasure in Norway but also has been subject to some rough treatment over the years. It was recently covered with red paint and was even stolen back in the early 1990s, with thieves sawing off the statue at its subject’s ankle and leaving only its little foot on public display. The statue was later recovered at a garbage dump.

Størmodden said he was actually “disappointed” that the forged version sold in Oslo was “so poorly made. If you’re first going to copy something, you should at least put a bit of work into it.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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